Stakeholders and Leadership Growth

 “Pity the leader caught between unloving critics and uncritical lovers.” – John W. Gardner

One of my clients has asked me recently – while we were discussing stakeholders support for his leadership growth, why it was better to involve other people in breaking bad habits and putting in place more efficient ones for a positive change.

The answer is simple and rather straightforward: people genuinely want to help when invited to do so, even more when the invitation is personal. Proof of that is to be found in Robert Cialdini’s work on influence and persuasion, as well as in emerging “feel-good” research.

When involving others, you may be the one responsible when it comes to what you choose to change, yet you won’t be alone in making it happen. A “support group” – as Marshall Goldsmith has referred to it, will be there for you, ready to offer the positive reinforcement so welcome during change.

Once people start believing in your change, they won’t be willing to see the opposite anymore – because it would create dissonance in their world. They would contradict themselves. People you ask would wish to see you succeed and help you as best they could.

It may sound a bit counterintuitive, perhaps even more in organizations. In reality, it is not. Most of the conflict management issues my clients bring to coaching are a form of miscommunication. Once willing to make it better, ready to look for the common ground and working actively on improving their relationships, they see results quickly even in most tense situations. Work is more productive, life gets better and is more fun 🙂

There is another reason why it is better to involve stakeholders in behavioural change and it relates to time and perception. You change your ways and change perception too, as you go. To change a bad habit, let’s say “speaking when angry”, takes about 1-year of shifting fury into calmness every single day. And it will take much longer in people’s minds and hearts to separate you from your old behavior. Perception improves in parallel to the change itself only when people are invited from the beginning to accompany you in your journey.

Positive changes, better results, improved perception, higher satisfaction and, perhaps, happiness… Marshall Godsmith, who spent a lot of time studying what makes successful leaders happy and interviewed thousands, summarized their answers on this topic: “It can’t be all about you. Coach your subordinates; give feedback to coworkers. The most important reason to do this has nothing to do with money. And if you don’t believe this is true, ask any CEO who has retired: “What are you proud of?” I’ve interviewed many, and not one told me how big their office was or how fancy their car was; usually what they talk about is relationships that meant the most to them.”


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